Tuesday, January 31, 2023


NOW you can buy a used car...


Good news! After an extraordinary run-up during the pandemic, the price of used cars is finally returning to earth. Back in 2021, I was shocked by the fact that some used cars with 30k miles on them were selling for more than the same model did new (if you could find one-- and that was the rub). 
In 2022, prices went down 14%, and they continue to decline. It looks like the used-car giant Carvana may even be headed to bankruptcy, after somehow figuring 2021 prices would stay that way for a while.  Now they own a lot of cars they can't sell for the amount they bought them for. Oops!
Part of the problem has to do with interest rates. Lots of people borrow money to buy a used car, and offers for that kind of loan are now carrying interest rates of over 12%.  

Looks like I might put off buying that Trabant I had my eye on!

Monday, January 30, 2023


Food and insights


Good work everyone!
But, Dad... I don't remember this incident (and it took me a while until I figured out you were talking about "fast food"):
Raced a hamburger
and a tomato downhill
The tomato won.
IPLawGuy, so true:
Went out west, mind blown!
In-N-Out and Carls Jr.,
Pioneer Chicken
And again:
Fast Food - Special Treat
Parents never bought the stuff
Expense to avoid!
Anonymous, you gave me bad dreams!
At Wienerschnitzel
Corn dog in a pretzel bun
Carbohydrate rush.
But Sleepy Walleye brought my favorite:
I heard Great RootBear
Got a glucose monitor
As well as new pants.

Sunday, January 29, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Space and Worship


While looking for something else this week, I stumbled on materials for the Aspen Group, a church-design firm that seems to be very forward-thinking about the spaces we use for and around worship.
One thing they suggest is that the lobby of a church should be more than just a place to flow through, but a space to linger and hang out. I had never really thought about that before, but it's true-- church would be a different experience if there was a space more conducive to informal socializing that was actually on your way from here to there. Some places actually do that pretty well. Meetinghouse Church in Edina (formerly Colonial Church) is probably the church where I have most often hung around after the service, and it occurred to me upon reflection that it is designed for that-- there are places to gather right where you walk out, and a big fireplace that makes it seem like a place to be on a winter's day. 
I've written before (and will again) about the crucial loss of churches as "third places" in our culture-- that is, places we form bonds after the first and second places of work and school. Part of that loss is because churches are becoming less relevant and less full, and part of it is a failure to adjust to what people need. Their spaces are generally suited to formal socializing like a potluck dinner or a big meeting, and not so well suited to informal gatherings. I have heard people say that coffeehouses are the new church (and they are more full on Sunday mornings), and perhaps there is something to that. 
Churches are dying-- and lack of creativity and inclusiveness are a significant cause of death.

Saturday, January 28, 2023


Oh? You miss Sarah Huckabee Sanders?


Friday, January 27, 2023


Haiku Friday: Fast Food


You gotta admire A & W's idea for a theme song, which is basically a tuba solo. I'd love to have been in the meeting where that idea was pitched!
But we all have our favorite fast food (whether you admit it or not). Let's haiku about that this week! Here, I will go first:
Midwestern Culver's
The only place it makes sense:
Salad and cheese curds.
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 26, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: Not the A & W Root Bear!!!!!

 Yesterday I came across this alarming notice:

In the wake of the scandal around the Green M & M no longer wearing go-go boots, it seemed like now A & W was bowing to the demands of... uh, somebody... and giving the Root Bear pants. 
As most of you know, there is a long tradition of bears sporting variations of being partially clad. For example, Winnie the Pooh has the classic shirt-no-pants look:

Yogi Bear has more of a tie-but-otherwise nude thing going:

Paddington Bear varied the theme with an overcoat-no-pants ensemble (often with a jaunty hat):

While Smokey the Bear mixes it up with pants-but-no-shirt outfit (accessorized with a classic hat and shovel):

Meanwhile, the Berenstain Bears were all fully clothed-- but they were a bunch of weirdos who hung out at the Credit Union (which is very unusual for bears):

Anyways... it turns out the whole thing with the A & W Root Bear getting pants was a prank baiting Fox News to get the outrage machine going-- and it totally worked!


Wednesday, January 25, 2023


A statue for Franklin


A High School in Santa Rosa, California has erected a statue of Franklin, the first Black character in the Peanuts comic strip. It's not an accident it ended up there-- Charles Schultz, the creator of Peanuts, lived much of his life in the town.

Franklin was introduced in 1968, 18 years after Schultz began the strip and just a few months after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Shultz reportedly received threats for integrating his comic strip, but stood his ground. When Franklin first appeared, literally the first thing he told Charlie Brown was that his dad was in the Army, fighting in Vietnam(!). Franklin was never a major player in the cast, and Schultz was criticized for a scene in which Franklin is at Thanksgiving dinner, but sitting by himself in a lawn chair.  I'm not quite sure what to make of the statue!

I grew up reading Peanuts in the Detroit Free Press, but I'm not sure I really caught everything that was going on...


Tuesday, January 24, 2023


First Day!


Today is the first day of the second semester. I'll have 80 first year students ready to learn some criminal law (I hope) bright and early in the morning. I teach three classes in the spring: criminal law, sentencing, and my clemency clinic.
I get a little keyed up before the first class-- anxious about doing well, nervous about the public speaking, and worried I'll mess it up somehow. I'm an introvert, so it's not something that comes naturally (the writing part of the job actually is a better fit for my personality). However, introverts often make good public speakers; the theory is that they have to try harder, and I can testify to that (if I have to, but preferably by written testimony).
People sometimes ask why, if I don't really favor public speaking, I do so much of it outside of teaching. The answer is this: There are some things I care about a lot, and if I want to advocate for something that kind of engagement goes with the territory. 
But today, I'll be back in the saddle in class, waving my hand overhead and yelling "and furthermore...!"

Monday, January 23, 2023


Sartorial poetry

 Nice job, all! And it was so great to see Sleepy Walleye back here:
Kuhl wool pullover
I would wear it ev'ry day
Until the summer

(but my wife won't let me)

And we had two from IPLawGuy. First this:
I loved a woman
who loved my sweater. She left
I could not wear it.

Then this:

Favorite blue jeans
Fit just right and they feel good
If I don't eat junk....

And Desiree was all in:
Hubby doesn’t like
My 501 baggy jeans.
Comfort wins the day.

Christine's moved me (I knew her dad):

I have some sleep shirts
That once belonged to my Dad
Constant reminder,

And Anonymous knew a thing or two:

Dressing little boys:
Blazer, shirt, tie (pirate), pants
My little fellas!

Sunday, January 22, 2023


Sunday Reflection: War


For most of my life, there has been a war somewhere in the world. Some were relatively little and others were bigger, but all of them are significant to those whose lives are ended, shifted or degraded. 
Now, as the war in Ukraine grinds into a second year, we are seeing the way war is fought change as the conflict evolves. Drones have come to play a much bigger role than people expected, and things like tanks have proven to be surprisingly vulnerable to much less expensive weapons. 
But, regardless of these and other changes, people are dying. One can't blame Ukraine for defending against an unprovoked invasion, but everyone should blame Russia for that invasion-- and the imperative of peace lies on them. Sadly, I don't think that will happen any time soon.
The war in Ukraine is a hard one for pacifists, as one side is defending its homeland against a larger aggressor. It raises the question-- when peace is in tension with justice, or existence, is it still a moral imperative?

Saturday, January 21, 2023


Lake Thwarp


Friday, January 20, 2023


Haiku Friday: Your best outfit


George Santos may not be a great Congressman, or volleyball player, or, well, it's hard to tell what he has been, but the dude sure can rock the sweater/tie/jacket look! It's good that at least he has a favorite outfit.
As has been often noted, I don't care much about clothes, but I do like some things better than others. So let's haiku about sartorial choices this week. Here, I will go first:
White shirt, blue coat
Harvard tie (J. Press, Cambridge)
I know-- not my school!
Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern, and have some fun!

Thursday, January 19, 2023


Political Mayhem Thursday: How not to do advocacy


New York governor Kathy Hochul (pictured here getting ready to root for her hometown Bills) gave what may be the very worst MLK Day speech ever-- and that's saying something, given that I wrote a law review article around a terrible MLK Day speech by Jeff Sessions.
Hochul is in the middle-- well, probably just through with-- a bitter dispute over her choice to become the new newest judge on New York's top court. (Confusingly, in NY the trial courts are called 'Supreme Courts' and the top appellate court is the 'Court of Appeals'). Her choice, Hector LaSalle, is a moderate-to-conservative former prosecutor who ran into fierce opposition-- and yesterday was shot down in a committee vote. 
Among other things, LaSalle voted to allow lawyers to strike jurors based on skin color, which, um, seems problematic. But Hochul plowed ahead with her MLK day speech (given while the nomination was still in play), which not-so-subtly tried to use MLK to support her nomination:

"Dr. King called upon us to be just and to be fair, and to not judge people. And that has not been afforded to an individual named judge Hector LaSalle... When he was gunned down, assassinated, my family sat there and held hands and wept. How could this be?" How could this man of God who taught us about nonviolence and social justice and change, and not judging people by the color of their skin, or one or two cases out of 5,000 cases decided."

No, it's not from The Onion. She really said that.
There is a lot not to like in that speech, much of it relating to the neutering of King's actual beliefs by politicians eager to make him into a "let's all just get along" figure urging us all to avoid conflict. Ugh.  
And that turn at the end! Yikes!

Wednesday, January 18, 2023


St. Thomas' Big Day


A few weeks ago, my former St. Thomas Law School colleague, Rob Vischer, became the president of the university. And then yesterday, he had a big announcement to make: a $75 million donation from Lee and Penny Anderson (neither of whom went to St. Thomas). The gift is to go towards the construction of a big new arena on campus that will house both hockey and basketball games. 
In 2020, St. Thomas got permission from the NCAA to do something unprecedented-- jump directly from Division III to Division I. So far, the move has been fairly fluid. The football team even won their new league's championship this year.
I'm conflicted about the larger narrative. I love college sports, but fear they play too big of a role in the culture (and economies) of many schools. I went from Baylor (which took sports way too seriously) to St. Thomas (which was in a super-cute all-Minnesota Div. III league) quite happily, but now it seems that St. Thomas is gunning to be the Baylor of the Upper Midwest. 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023


Make it stop! We're Americans!


There are things I care a LOT about (and write about them too much, probably). There are things that interest me. There are things I don't care about much. And then there is the British monarchy, which not only do I not care about at all, but I can't believe that any patriotic American actually would!
A quick recap: Our nation was founded on a rejection of the British monarchy. A total rejection, too-- we got rid of nearly every vestige of it, and then fought another war in 1812-15 against the British royals just for good measure. It's a thoroughly American thing to totally not care about the British monarchy.
And then there is this: These people are (for the most part) idiots. They are pretentious rich people who live off old money and land holdings and contribute almost nothing to their society other than providing tabloid fodder. They live stilted, performative existences and only very rarely do anything that is even remotely worthwhile or objectively notable. 
Kate wore a dress! William remembered that his mother was Princess Diana! Kate wore a different dress! Charles rode a horse! Somebody is mad at someone else! Sooooooo what? 
Some will say we treat the Kardashians and their ilk the same way-- which is true-- but the difference is that our nation was not founded on a rejection of the Kardashians. Well, not yet. But that matters.
I've been in England at times that the royal family was in tumult and the newspapers were all over it. That's fine-- it's their monarchy, after all. But, if we are going to build a wall to separate ourselves from foreigners, could we maybe just build it between us and them?

Monday, January 16, 2023


On MLK Day


I've written a lot about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and learned much more. To me, he has always been a religious figure-- and the Civil Rights Movement a cause of morality more than politics.
It's painful to see some of the things that have been done with his legacy: gross simplifications of his beliefs, a consistent disregarding of the Poor People's Campaign that dominated the last part of his life, a bleaching out of his Blackness into something that allows his work to support nearly any ideology.  I'm pretty tired of hearing people talk about what MLK would be upset about today-- usually, it is something about aggrieved White people-- and pundits viewing his work devoid of its Christian context, which is like talking about Babe Ruth but not baseball. 
Like Jesus, Dr. King unsettled people. I fear that power has been lost as his legacy has been institutionalized.


Podcast Poems!

 There were some great entries this week! It was great to hear again from Gavin:
“Up First” starts each day
Three succinct, balanced segments
News from NPR.
And Christine-- I didn't know about this podcast!
Mid-day, on Sunday
We bring Al Franken into
Our home for a chat.
Jill Scoggins had a great one:
Tuesday People: Mitch
Albom explores living with
intent, grace and love.
And another:
WTF: Marc
Maron’s self-help, really, but
with great interviews.
And finally, an anonymous gem about the inimitable Liz Covar: 

HELLO! Liz exclaims!
Welcome to Ben Franklin's World!
Time warp is the best.

Sunday, January 15, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Assessment


We humans seem to be naturally more prone to other-assessment than self-assessment. It's a tendency that seemed to cause some eye-rolls by Jesus, among others: Pay attention to the log in your own eye rather than the speck in another's; Judge not, lest ye be judged, etc.
But not judging others is only half of Jesus's instruction. The other half is to actually judge ourselves-- to actually pay attention to that log in our own eye. And we aren't always so great at that, either.
At least I'm not-- sometimes my level of self-awareness and assessment can be pretty low, and up until today I didn't even come close to self-reflection. And there is plenty to reflect upon:  I don't realize when I am expecting too much of others, or not listening deeply. This past year I have had too many moments of undue judgment-- I'm finding myself slipping into disapproving of people when they don't do something the same way that I would. That's crazy-- probably their way is better than mine quite often!
So, there's my log....

Saturday, January 14, 2023


The Best Bad Lip-Reading Video Ever (Feat. Jarsh)

 This will brighten your day!

Friday, January 13, 2023


Haiku Friday: Podcasts


Podcasts are a fascinating new medium. Well, maybe not that new-- they really are just radio segments, accessible in a new way. But I love radio, so that's good! It sometimes seems like everyone I know is starting a podcast, and that's fantastic-- the people i know have a lot to say, after all.
So.... let's haiku about podcasts this week. Here, I will go first:
This 'Merican Life:
Ira Glass seems depressed
But still has stories!
 Now it is your turn! Just use the 5/7/5 syllable pattern and have some fun!

Thursday, January 12, 2023


PMT: Biden's classified documents


After castigating Donald Trump for keeping classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, now it turns out that Joe Biden did the same thing-- at his office and (we found out yesterday) at a second location as well.
While some people are trying to distinguish the two-- Biden had fewer documents, cooperated with the investigation and turned the material over once lawyers found it-- the basics seem to be the same for both men.  In neither case do we have evidence that they intentionally took the documents for some nefarious purpose.
This makes both of them look bad-- at best, they were sloppy about what they took out of the White House. 
One desirable outcome would be to restructure the way documents leave the White House at the end of an administration-- it might make sense to have it all go to the Archives for screening, and then to the former president or VP (or, probably, their libraries).
Speaking of libraries, there is no whiff of a Trump presidential library being considered. Part of that, I'm sure, is that Trump is convinced that his time in the White House isn't over. But whenever it happens, a Trump library will be especially important for historians, because those 4 years contained a very unusual period in American history.

Wednesday, January 11, 2023




This time every year, I think about my relationship with drinking. I'm probably best described as a "slight" drinker-- I have a beer or a glass of wine with dinner sometimes, but very rarely anything more than that. My day is not much different one way or another.  Sometimes I literally have a shot glass of wine.
That doesn't mean that my drinking is without dangers. If I'm around people who don't drink, even my one beer is establishing a difference that doesn't need to be there. And even that one beer can become something I get a little too used to. I could see it becoming something that makes a day normal, and probably at times that has been true.

It's worth thinking about...

Tuesday, January 10, 2023


The Demolishment

Unless you are a hard-core SEC/Georgia fan, the college football national championship was pretty hard to watch, as Georgia demolished TCU. Especially for Michigan fans (well, and TCU fans) it was painful, given that it could have been Michigan in that spot, putting up a better fight. But Michigan went into the semifinal flat and lost to TCU.

College football, perhaps more than any other sport, is about match-ups-- and in particular, mismatches. Coaches figure out the weak spots in their opponent's personnel (or their own strengths) and then make a plan to take advantage of any mismatch they can identify. If a team's top two receivers are faster than any of the defensive backs, you will see them targeted.

It sure looked like Georgia figured that they were faster on the edges and could create holes for quarterback draws, and took advantage of that. Congrats to Georgia!

Monday, January 09, 2023


Winter poems

 This one made me miss my friend Craig!:
Land of lakes envy:
Miss cold weather, snowstorms, and
Frigid pond hockey.

And Megan Willome has thoughts:
I need me some bleak
midwinter. I book a trip
out to Wyoming.

And Christine remembers something very, uh, Michiganish:
Snowy days of old
Wonder Bread wrappers lined our
Very soggy boots

And there was this from Desiree in VA (we can't do this in MN):

It’s midwinter so
Time to plan birthdays. Inside,
Outside, we party!

Sunday, January 08, 2023


Sunday Reflection: Addiction, 2023

 I teach criminal law. And because I teach for people who are going to be practicing in the real world (as opposed to the bizarre-o world of the Model Penal Code, where there are no narcotics or gun crimes), I talk about drugs and addiction a lot. Even if you aren't going to be prosecuting or defending cases involving drug crimes, addiction and drug use play a role in  much of the rest of criminal law. Victims and offenders in violent crimes, for example, are often under the influence of narcotics at the time of the crime, and narcotics use is a frequent trigger for violations of probation. If you want to know about criminal law, you better know something about drugs.

Our biggest drug problem right now is opioids, which killed over 100,000 Americans in 2021 through overdoses and which have negatively impacted millions of lives. Legally prescribed drugs like Oxycontin are the gateway drug here-- that is how people get hooked.

In the old days, back in 2015, people often slid from Oxycontin to injecting heroin to death. Then cheap Fentanyl flooded the streets, replacing heroin with an even more deadly results (Fentanyl is generally stronger than heroin). Most recently, we've seen Fentanyl combined with Zylazine, an animal tranquilizer, replace straight Fentanyl. Zylazine has a terrible impact on the human body, creating oozing sores and causing the need for amputations. Can it get worse?

Of course it can. And it probably will.

This is a national crisis, and one where we need to avoid the mistakes made in the past. Incarcerating people won't affect markets, as we seem to finally be recognizing. If we are to win, we have to reduce demand, and that is very hard to do.

Is the demand for these drugs the result of a spiritual crisis? Maybe, for some users. But the larger spiritual crisis is in our collective inability to work together to reduce demand.

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